Welcome to Part Two of the Top 20 Albums of 2013. My picks for #17 – 20 were posted yesterday, and the full list will appear at the end of the week. But first, some scattered musings on #13 – 16.
#16. Anciients – Heart of Oak
I bought Vancouver, Canada-based band Anciients’ album immediately after I heard that they’d be touring with my dream-made-reality bill of TesseracT and Scale the Summit. Is it just me, or was the Canadian metal scene particularly hot this year? As if the hockey connection – to say nothing of the chance to hang with everyone’s favorite crack-smoking politician (see below) wasn’t enough to fuel my desire to flee for the northern border. Anyway, as I noted in an earlier “Listen to this Now” review, the fact that they had been deemed worthy to open for two staggeringly fantastic bands was all I needed to know. At the time, I praised their album as meriting comparisons to Mastodon and Opeth, but hadn’t yet seen them live. Bottom line: they tore up the venue, making me all the more stoked about Heart of Oak and what they’ll bring to the metal community in the future.
#15. DispersE – Living Mirrors
I have a few friends whose music tastes I implicitly trust; when they post a song or hype a band on facebook, I’ll generally go check it out. Incidentally, this allegiance is typically genre-specific: I have my Americana/alt-country guru, the veritable bluegrass historian, a friend whose Spotify playlist is a “Who’s Who” of the best thrash bands of the past and future, and so forth. I discovered Polish band DispersE through my favorite prog metal/jazz fusion guy. If Periphery’s Periphery II collided with TesseracT’s Altered State, fusing together in the heat of the crash, with shards of jazz and electronic allusions edifying the resulting structure, then you’d get an idea of at least some of what Living Mirrors offers. It’s definitely the type of album you want to enjoy with good headphones so you don’t miss any of the details.
#14. Pomegranate Tiger – Entities
This was the year for Canadian progressive metal; yep, I’ve said it before on this list, and surely I’ll soon be saying it again. Entities is Pomegranate Tiger’s debut album, which is mind-boggling. I discovered their album completely randomly: it was one of the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” suggestions, and since I had purchased literally every other one of the 20+ albums recommended, I figured I ought to give the band with an odd name and cool album cover a try. It’s an instrumental progressive metal fan’s cream dream (if you’ll pardon the juxtaposition of juvenile slang with “serious” music reflection). They’d appeal to fans of Animals As Leaders — who, I suspect, would have little patience for a band that was nothing more than an AAL knockoff or clone. Pomegranate Tiger shares AAL’s technical skill and intensity, but has its own distinct style, among other things by incorporating more melodic elements to their compositions. The band is already working on its next album, rendering me all the more stoked that I discovered them this early in their career so I can follow how they evolve and mature.
#13. Exivious – Liminal
Dear family and friends who wonder, “WTF is our beloved genre-label-whoring pretentious dipshit sweetheart gal talking about when she starts mumbling about digging a jazz fusion instrumental metal blah blah blah sound?” … here is your answer in one of its most elegant manifestations. This album is remarkable, graceful, as challenging as it is inspiring… the track “Deeply Woven” (see below) just rips my heart out today in particular, but really, the whole album has that effect. I perceive almost a more feminine energy in this album as compared to, say, Weightless by fellow virtuosos Animals As Leaders or Lingua Franca by T.R.A.M. (though the latter’s exceptional album is perhaps slightly closer, and you need all three in your collection). None is “better” than the others, certainly no more or less emotionally evocative, but it’s pleasantly surprising that a subgenre as narrow as instrumental metal can produce bands that can generate such distinct aural auras.
Anyway, the only reason this album isn’t listed higher than #13 is because it didn’t drop until mid-November, and even though it was the first thing I purchased that morning, the rank order here is arbitrary enough that when I have an objective rule like “extra credit for proven over time,” I ought to abide by it.
Okay, tomorrow we shall break into the Top 10, featuring choices #9-12. See you then.